Low Income and 14 Hours of Work on Kabul Streets
Jafar usually leaves home at 4:00 in the morning to work in the city. At least six to eight times a day, he crosses the Pul-e Bagh-e umomi (in the center of Kabul) to the Khaja Bughra crossroads (in the outskirts of Kabul). Jafar says that although he drives on the city streets from dawn to dusk, he is not left with more than 200 afghanis (equivalent to $2.22) a day.
“I bought gasoline for 730 afghanis today and I have not been able to cover the price of gasoline yet,” Jafar said. “I can pick up passengers a few more times until the evening to cover the price of fuel!”
The price of a liter of gasoline in Kabul is currently 73 afghanis. Most citizens and taxi drivers complain about the high market prices.
Regarding the high price of petroleum products, the Chamber of Commerce and Investment says that they used to import petroleum products at cheaper prices than other countries, but now the import of petroleum products has decreased and this has caused the price to rise. The chamber issued a statement yesterday (Wednesday, October 13) citing the rising dollar against the Afghan currency as a factor in the high price of gasoline.
Meanwhile, Nooruddin Azizi, acting Minister of Industry and Trade, has said that steps will be taken to reduce prices. According to him, the Taliban’s priority is to solve the problems of businessmen.
Jafar says that despite the high cost of gasoline, the route he takes is crowded. For the past three days, the roads around the Kabul Serena Hotel have been closed due to security threats. Apparently, this has made the roads around Serena more crowded. The United States has warned of security threats at the Serena Hotel in Kabul. The country has advised its citizens not to enter the Serena Hotel and its surroundings. The US State Department has asked its citizens who are in and around the Serena Hotel to leave “immediately.” No further details have been provided by the US government.
Jafar has been working as a taxi driver in Kabul for about seven years. He is the only supporter of his family of six. He worries about the high cost of raw materials, saying that despite his best efforts, he is unable to meet the basic needs of his family.
Jafar looks across the road in front of Gulbahar Center, saying: “I bought an oil pipe for 2350 afghanis, it is not possible to pay the full price of oil at once. The shopkeeper knows us, I convinced him that for the price of oil I deliver 500 afghanis a week. Therefore, I can pay the oil price in three or four weeks.”
Jafar says that there should be a government to provide “a piece of bread” for the people. “It does not matter to me whether he is Karzai or Ghani,” he said. “The head of the government should be the one who offers peace and bread to the people. Unskilled and hardworking people just want a piece of bread.”
Four passengers sitting in Jafar’s car confirm his words, saying that people need security and job more than anything else.
Musa is sitting next to the driver. He asks Jafar for the bank address. Jafar gives the address of the bank, adding: “Banks are closed, they pay only 20,000 afghanis a week, that is not enough. You have to go behind the gate of the banks at three o’clock at night”.
Musa says that the central branch of Azizi bank is not crowded, and Jafar confirms this, saying that it is less crowded now than in the past.
The Taliban took control of Kabul two months ago. Since then, monetary and banking transactions have been difficult. Banks reopened in the center of the country three weeks ago, but money distribution to customers is limited. The holders of individual bank accounts will not be paid more than $200 or more than 20,000 afghanis a week.
Musa gets out of the car in front of the Kabul Emergency Hospital and walks to the central branch of Azizi Bank.
Jafar complains about the high market prices and unemployment. “There are no passengers, people do not have enough money to travel by car,” Jafar continues. “Sometimes we stand for half a day to pick up a passenger.”
“There used to be jobs,” said an adult man sitting in a chair behind the driver. “People no longer work in the city to get out of their homes.”
This is not only Jafar’s problem. Thousands of people in Afghanistan are struggling with similar problems these days.
[box type=”info” align=”alignleft” class=”” width=””]Hussain Haidari, Hasht-e Subh Persian[/box]